When You Cut Into The Present exemplifies a current trend among bands in the Nordic nu-prog/jazz fusion micro-scene to rein in any expansive, Topographic Ocean-sized prolixity, and to channel the passion and energy of free jazz into directional flumes instead.
This is the third album from Kjetil Møster’s namesake quartet in as many years. The saxophonist initially said he wanted the group to emulate: “the artistic style and intensity of John Coltrane in a modern context,” and that context update is key: Møster! runs the rails of Coltrane’s journey through hard bop to free jazz, and then crashes the barriers.
I described the quartet’s debut album, Edvard Lygre Møster as “power-prog with funk and dub grits”. It had Ståle Storløkken on Fender Rhodes and Moog, and everyone except Kapstad doubled up on electronics. The follow-up, Inner Earth, was: “proggier”, albeit made with no electronics or keyboards. Storløkken was out by then, and had been replaced by Motorpsycho guitarist Hans Magnus “Snah” Ryan.
Ryan’s induction bought Møster!’s Motorpsycho contingent to 50%, since drummer Kenneth Kapstad also plays in that band. Here he’s teamed with electric bassist Nikolai Eilertsen, who also, incidentally, drives Storløkken’s phenomenal power-prog Hammond Trio elephant9. And it mirrors Motorpsycho’s own move to step back from prog excess – they followed their most expansive album to date, the Ståle Storløkken collaboration The Death Defying Unicorn, with more song-structured recordings involving Dungen guitarist Reine Fiske.
When You Cut… takes its title from a William Burroughs quote: “When you cut into the present the future leaks out,” from Burroughs’ “Origin and Theory of the Tape Cut-Ups”. I don’t think any cut-ups were used here, but these studio recordings, made during a break in touring, have all the charged and focused intensity you might hope for in that situation while still making excellent use of the opportunity to engineer, multi-track and mix a refinement of that spontaneity.
It’s a lean affair, not quite 37 minutes long, comprised of five pieces, starting with the atmospheric “Red Nebula”, which lasts less than nine and a half minutes. Each piece then gets shorter as the album telescopes to its end with the four no-nonsense minutes of “Soundhouse Rumble”.
The first 2:40 of “Nebula and Red Giant” are given over to an atmospheric, vaguely doom/drone intro, which is brusquely pushed aside by a bubbling Eilertson bassline that’s soon locked into a linear, rolling drum barrage. Kapstad extends the drumming tradition that runs from Sunny Murray to Mick Harris and beyond – Blast Beats with a distinct Jazz feel and Afro/Latin rhythmic DNA. He gets a deserved solo break before the end, but it’s collective layering that energises. Ryan is superb, exploiting any riffs and fissures that open up in the music, but Møster’s saxophone takes the lead throughout, testifying to his influences.
“Bandha” is a strutting mid-tempo number. While Møster’s sax shadows the bassline this time Ryan leads – his guitar initially getting an fx treatment that camouflages it as electric keys. On a brooding unison head riff the group sounds like The Thing on steroids, but they draw down on that funky, elastic bassline, Kapstad keeping things rhythmically tight and light, a little loosening elsewhere allowing some focused jamming on a pulse that soon firms up behind lyrical tenor sax.
Hints of both Industrial music and Afrofuturism inflect the rhythm-driven title piece. “The Future Leaks Out” again has Ryan’s guitar distorted through effects. Eilertsen introduces a gritty lead bassline, Kapstad locks into backbeats, and the group’s collective momentum is stretched taut in a play on tensile stresses.
Møster’s keening solo on the intro to the atmospheric “Journey” brings an interlude of calm that recalls Pharoah Sanders’ lament “Peace In Essaouira (For Sonny Sharrock)”. Perhaps that’s why the body of the piece brings to mind Bill Laswell’s productions of Sanders’ late 90s major-label albums. Unlike the first Møster! recordings, which had an open-ended ‘live’ feel, When You Cut Into The Present is very much a studio recording, with careful use of multi-tracking and a meticulous mix.
As a reminder of the group’s range, “Soundhouse Rumble” then returns to the thrumming, tight-wound energy that comes from playing into motoric central riffage, and it’s all done and dusted in no time.
The continuing distillation of Møster’s music is producing ever more potent results. Each of these five pieces has its own specific weight and efficacy, giving the whole album a real charge of of urgency and excitement.
Kjetil Møster saxophone; Hans Magnus “Snah” Ryan guitar; Nikolai Hængsle Eilertsen bass; Kenneth Kapstad drums.